Didn’t New Jersey just legalize online gambling to boost revenue by attracting more out-of-state tourists?
Pity the poor saps who live in the beautiful Rocky Mountain State, where voters decided in a referendum that marijuana should be legal, beginning this year.
Now their quality of life has deteriorated, according to our governor.
“See if you want to live in a major city in Colorado, where there are head shops popping up on every corner, and people flying into your airport just to get high,” Chris Christie said on a radio show Monday. “To me, it’s not the quality of life we want to have here in the state of New Jersey. And there’s not tax revenue that’s worth that.”
If Christie were truly concerned about quality of life, he would not have sabotaged our medical marijuana program with his foot-dragging, as patients wallow in chronic pain.
But let’s put that aside for a moment. We are talking about marijuana legalization here — an idea most New Jerseyans and even municipal prosecutors support.
A New Jersey lawmaker has proposed a bill that would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana like liquor, predicting we could raise $100 million a year in revenue. That’s certainly a big plus. Colorado collected more than $2 million in recreational pot taxes in January.
But the real reason to legalize marijuana is the enormous amount of money and time we are now wasting by treating pot the same way we do heroin or LSD. Our state spends more than a hundred million dollars a year to arrest tens of thousands of people on marijuana charges.
The result? Not a decline in pot smoking. Just unnecessarily criminal records, unfairly attached to young men of color — crushing their job prospects in New Jersey, a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.
Does this sound like a good quality of life to you?
The idea that Colorado, a land of healthy, fit outdoorspeople, is now being overrun by zombie potheads is nonsense. It’s still illegal to use marijuana in any public space in Colorado. You can’t smoke it on the street, in cafes, bars or parks.
Christie’s assertion that people are flying into the state just to get high is dubious, at best. Not coincidentally, the tourism bump at Denver International Airport also corresponded with two playoff games for the Denver Broncos and a prime snow season for skiers and snowboarders.
Besides, since when is record tourism a bad thing? Didn’t New Jersey just legalize online gambling to boost revenue by attracting more out-of-state tourists?
Our governor also cited a recent study that concluded that even casual marijuana use can alter the brain. But that research, published last week by the Journal of Neuroscience, doesn’t actually show these mental changes are ill effects. After all, certain parts of the brain also light up when you drink alcohol, or eat particular types of food.
This was a small sample study with a debatable conclusion, not something to base an entire state’s policy on.
That’s not to say that marijuana is harmless, of course, or that teenagers should be smoking it. But studies have shown it’s a lot easier for kids to get their hands on marijuana than alcohol, precisely because marijuana is illegal. The black market is perfectly happy to peddle pot to anyone.
We’re never going to be able to keep marijuana entirely away from teens. But in a controlled and regulated market, at least sellers won’t want to run the risk of losing their licenses — as they do for selling alcohol to minors.
Christie says marijuana will never be legal on his watch, and anyone who doesn’t like that should “go to Colorado and see if you want to live there.”
But all things considered, Denver’s looking pretty good to us.
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